Friday, 13 February 2015

stories so far: modern art

We held our red balloons tight, my mum and sister and me. We had carefully written our messages and our address on the attached cards. The balloon that got the furthest would win a prize. But that didn't matter. We didn't want the prize.

Thousands of people were in the park. The countdown began for us to release the balloons. We huddled together and when the countdown ended we all let go. All the red balloons with their messages attached floating off into the distance. We watched with wide eyes squinting from the sun, for what seemed like hours. Everyone slowly drifted off and eventually the park was empty again. 


Whenever the postman came we would rush to find out if someone had returned our card. The anticipation and excitement that someone had found them. Like throwing out a message in a bottle or shouting out into space hoping that someone would hear you and call back.  


We do this every day; reach out to be found. Try to connect, to fall in love, to have hope. We have to take a leap sometimes don't we? 


I imagined a girl my age in a faraway land would find my balloon and we would become pen pals and great friends. This was the days before the internet and instant communication. When people wrote letters. I remember spending hours writing to my friends at school. Filling them with reams of important information that couldn't possibly wait till the next day (or hadn't been covered in the hour phone call we just had). Such as; what had happened in Neighbours, what I had eaten for tea, how really really annoying that boy Mark was, and how I wouldn't go out with him even if he asked me anyway so there! Then I would carefully decorate them with hearts and flowers, and maybe a few stickers from my precious collection. Best friends forever! 


The Great Balloon Race was captured in an artwork a year or 2 later. A massive 12 by 4 metre montage of moments and icons from the time and place. I remember the day I saw it for the first time. It was at the top of the large winding staircase on the white back wall of the town library. The scene of the red balloons floating off into a blue Summer sky, the rippling reflections of water and clouds on the mirrored city walls. The modern, trendy characters. A boy in a white T-shirt and dark glasses and a girl with bleached denim jeans and punky hair. The grown ups I couldn't wait to be.


I went back to visit last year. Dark rough red brick and square modern lines - contrasted inside with smooth curved white plaster and expanses of clear green glass. Sweeping up the staircase that as a child had seemed like the steepest and longest staircase in the world. It had always been an effort for little legs - but the journey was always worth it. A world of colour and discovery awaited at the top.  

I felt a sadness and gratitude. I was taken back to the moment. My family were still all together. There had been no loss. We were protected from the realities and sadnesses of life that were yet to come. 


I returned every day for a week. Drank my coffee, checked my emails and then just sat. A meditative peace. Although I am now far away I return there often in my mind. 


At the time it was just a fun day out. You never know which will be the moments you hold on to throughout your life. The ones that will give you hope and make you feel safe, and that will encourage you to go out and be in the world. To dare to reach out. 



This story is also featured on:





Nikki Young Writes

ImagesByCW Photography

Prose for Thought

mumturnedmom



Cathy, age 2
#FlashBackFriday with Cathy
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16 comments:

  1. Beautiful memories Em, so proud to have been part of them. Love you xx

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  2. This is lovely. It took me back to the days of phone calls and pen pals (and Neighbours too!). Thanks for sharing on FridayFiction.

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  3. Phone calls & pen pals! Seems like a very long time ago. Thank you :)

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  4. I really enjoyed the way you wove the memories in and out of the text

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    1. Thank you Antonia - it's a complicated thing dealing with memories and using them in your writing, Blurring the lines between fiction and memoir...

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  5. What a beautiful story. Thanks for bringing back memories of 'good ol' days'. I remember those balloons, unfortunately and very unromantically, my cards never came back. But there was hope and that is so important... Pen pals, letters and... Neighbours - hahaha - I admit it, I did watch it, maybe the first couple of seasons or so :)
    Thanks for linking up!!

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    1. Thanks for hosting - and your lovely comments. Look forward to linking up again ;)

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  6. That was super! What a special memory. I could just picture all those red balloons floating into a clear blue sky and the anticipation of waiting to see if someone found your card. You have a great way with words.

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    1. Thanks so much Ida - glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. This is lovely, what a gorgeous memory and so beautifully told through the story. And, I love that it came to an end in the present with such a wonderful sentiment expressed in the last paragraph. I have to admit I now have 99 Red Balloons in my head... :) Huge apologies that it's taken me so long to comment this week! To top off a busy week, my husband broke his hand on Saturday, that kind of through my weekend a little :) Thanks so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

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    1. Thank you Sara. Now I have that tune in my head too! ;) Thank you for you're thoughtful and helpful comments. Hope your week ahead is a little calmer :)

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  8. A lovely memory! and I miss the days of pen pals too. I have actually recently started exchanging more letters and also encouraged my daughters to write to friends. It's so much more personal then just email.

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    1. A good habit to get back into I think. I need to do more letter writing myself too :)

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  9. Lovely combination of a memory and a story. Very nostalgic and atmospheric! x

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    1. Thanks so much Maddy - so glad you enjoyed it :)

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